Lawsuit Filed Challenging Expanded Gaming in Arkansas

A lawsuit filed Tuesday seeks to overturn local voters' approval to allow additional electronic games of skill at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.

In the suit filed in Garland County Circuit Court, the Family Council Action Committee, a Little Rock, Ark.-based lobbying group, is seeking to declare the results of the Nov. 8 election unconstitutional and to prevent what the state statute defines as "electronic games of skill" from operating at Oaklawn and Southland Greyhound Park in West Memphis, Ark.

A similar complaint was filed Monday in Crittenden County Circuit Court.

Act 1151 of 2005, which Gov. Mike Huckabee allowed to become law without his signature, authorized the tracks to call a city or county election to determine if voters wanted additional electronic gambling.

Since early 2000, Oaklawn and Southland have had Instant Racing, an electronic pari-mutuel game that allows fans to bet on recycled races.

Voters in Hot Springs passed Act 1151 of 2005 by a 90-vote margin.

"Our basic feeling is this is kind of a slap in the face at the American democratic system," Oaklawn media relations director Terry Wallace said. "The Family Council group didn't like the results so now they're trying to circumvent that democratic process by going through the courts and we just think that's unfortunate."

The Family Council's complaint questions whether the state Legislature unconstitutionally delegated authority to the tracks by allowing them to call elections and whether voters in Garland and Crittenden counties who live outside Hot Springs and West Memphis were disenfranchised by not being allowed to vote.

Oaklawn officials have said additional games of electronic skill could elevate purses to $400,000 per day. The track hopes to have 100 to 130 additional Instant Racing machines installed before the 2006 season begins Jan. 20. The additional machines, which will increase the total to about 370, were planned regardless of the outcome of last month's election.